When my youngest son was perhaps three or four years old, he was sitting on the couch across from his dad, Bob, and talking to himself as children often do. He was telling a little story about the “last time I saw my granddad.” Bob thought this was interesting, since my son’s granddad had died thirty years earlier, so he asked him what he meant. My son reiterated, “The last time I saw my granddad, he was sitting like this” – lengthwise on the couch, with his body propped up against one arm of the couch, almost sitting up but not quite – “and he leaned forward” – he demonstrated by leaning forward a bit and turning his head to look at his dad – “and he waved at me through this little window!” He was quite cheerful about it, and afterward went on with his play.
Bob became emotional at this. He had never shared with me or with our son the memory of the last time he saw his father (“granddad”), but he revealed that he and his brother had gone to the hospital where their father was preparing for cancer surgery. They were unable to go into the room where their father was, but they could see him through the window; he sat up a bit in the hospital bed – just as our son had done on the couch – and smiled and waved to them through the window.
More than once, our son has described this sort of “memory” – making his father and I wonder where he was before he came to us, who he used to be, and what sort of spirit he has that is able to be in a hallway thirty years ago, unseen, waving goodbye to someone he’s never met.